f|S3l|l|ff s with the words "artist," "doctor," "scientist," or "diviner," the word "witch" is almost meaningless without some sort of quali-Igy^^^s) fying adjective in front of it. Here is a brief review, in alphabetical order, of the classification system I have created to distinguish the various European and American sorts of witches from one another.
Anything an anthropologist calls "witchcraft," usually referring to:
(1) the practices of independent (real or supposed) magic users who are suspected of at least sometimes using their magic outside of their society's accepted cultural norms, and/or
(2) a perceived state, often involuntary, of being a monster who can curse people with the "evil eye."
This is pretty close to what the word "wicce" probably originally referred to, annoying as that may be to modern Wiccans.
The practices of the persons often called "witches" (if seldom to their faces) in pre-medieval Europe, to wit: midwifery, healing with magic, herbs, and other folk remedies, providing abortions, love potions, and poisons, divination, casting of curses and blessings, etc. A Classic Witch's religion may well have been irrelevant to his or her techniques. After the monotheistic conquests, most survivors were — at least officially — Christians or Moslems. Some may have retained a certain amount of pre-Christian/ pre-Islamic magical and religious knowledge. Classic Witches have continued to exist to this very day, in ever dwindling numbers, mostly in the remotest villages and among the Romany or other Traveling Peoples.
(1) A postulated medieval cult of Diana and/or Dianus worshipers (Margaret Murray's idea).
(2) Term used by some henotheistic Neo-pagan Witches to refer to their concentration on the Goddess.
(3) Term used by some Feminist separatist Witches to describe their practices and beliefs.
The practices of various non-English-speaking people who use magic, religion and alternative healing methods in their own communities, and who are called "witches" by English speakers who don't know any better.
Witchcraft, Familial or "Fam-Trad"
The practices and beliefs of those who claim to belong to (or to have been taught by members of) families that supposedly were "underground" Paleo- or Mesopagans for several centuries in Europe and/or the Americas, using their wealth and power to stay alive and secret. Even if they once existed, none of them could have a pure religious/ magical tradition by now; instead, they would have bits of Paleopagan customs mixed with Christianity or Islam as well as every new occult wave that hit the West.
99.9% of all the people you will ever meet who claim to be Fam-Trad Witches are simply lying, or have been lied to by their teachers. Familial Tradition Witchcraft is also sometimes called "Hereditary Witchcraft" or even "Genetic Witchcraft." These latter terms are used by those who think that they must claim a witch as an ancestor, in order to be a witch today, or who think that it "proves" them to be better than those without such ancestry.
Witchcraft, Fairy / Faery / Faërie
(1) Any of several different (and sometimes conflicting) Traditions of Meso- and/or Neo-pagan Witchcraft started by the blind poet and "scoundrel guru" Victor Anderson during the 1970s-1990s. He mixed British and Celtic folklore about the fairies, Gardnerianism, Voodoo, Max Freedom Long's version of Hawaiian Huna, Tantra, Gypsy magic, Native American beliefs, and anything else he was thinking about at the time he was training the founders of each trad.
(2) Varieties of Neopagan Witchcraft focused around homosexual and/or bisexual images and magical methods rather than the heterosexual (and sometimes homophobic) ones used in most Wiccan trads.
(3) Other sects of Neopagan Witchcraft focused around real or made-up fairy lore, often taken from romantic poems, plays, and novels about the fairies. In most of these traditions, there is usually an assumption that the ancient assumed associations between fairies and witches were true, and that the fairies were "originally" the Paleopagan nature spirits and/or deities.
Several new monotheistic or henotheistic religions started since the early 1970s by women in the feminist community who belonged to the women's spirituality movement and/or who had contact with Neopagan
Witches. It is partially an outgrowth of Neo-pagan Witchcraft, with male deities booted unceremoniously(!) out of the religion entirely, and partially a conglomeration of independent and eclectic do-it-yourself covens of spiritually inclined feminists. The religions usually involve worshiping only the syncretic Goddess and using Her as a source of inspiration, magical power, and psychological growth. Their scholarship is often abysmal and men are usually not allowed to join or participate.
The originally Mesopagan source of what has now become Neopagan Witchcraft, founded by Gerald Gardner and his friends in the late 1940s and 1950s, based upon his alleged contacts with British Fam-Trads. After he finished inventing, expanding, and/ or reconstructing the rites, laws, and other materials, copies were stolen by numerous others who then claimed Fam-Trad status and started new religions of their own. (See Hutton's Triumph of the Moon for most of the messy details.) Though Gardnerians are sometimes called "the scourge of the Craft," together with the Alexandrians and members of some other British Traditions, they may be considered simply the orthodox branch of Neopagan Witchcraft.
A postulated cult of devil worshipers invented by the medieval Church, used as the excuse for raping, torturing and killing scores of thousands of women, children and men. The cult was said to consist of people who worshiped the Christian Devil in exchange for magical powers they used to benefit themselves and harm others. (I coined this term many years ago, before the rise of the "Goth" subculture of the 1980s.) Also called "Diabolic Witchcraft" and "Satanic Witchcraft."
Refers to the habit common among modern Witches of claiming to have been initiated at an early age by a mother or grandmother who belonged to a Fam-Trad but who is now conveniently dead, doesn't speak English, and/or is otherwise unavailable for questioning.
Witchcraft, Immigrant or "Imm-Trad"
Refers to the customs and beliefs of Meso-pagan peasants and supposed Fam-Trad members who immigrated to the Americas and mingled their magical and religious customs with each other, the Native Americans, enslaved Blacks, and the previous immigrants. Examples would include the dozens of kinds of Voodoo and Hoodoo, Pennsylvania "hex" magic, and Appalachian magical lore.
The current practices of those who are consciously or unconsciously duplicating some or many of the activities of the Classic Witches and who call themselves (or are called by others) "witches."
The beliefs and practices of some modern Satanists, who work very hard to be everything that the medieval Church and current Fundamentalists say they should be. Some of them perform Black Masses, commit blasphemy and sacrilege towards Christian ideas and objects, hold (or long to hold) orgies, etc. There is some small overlap with the "Goth" subculture of the 1980s, but most Goths are interested in vampires, not demons.
Many new duotheistic religions founded since the 1960s, most of which are variations of Gardnerian Witchcraft but some of which are independent inventions and/or reconstructions based on real or supposed Family Traditions, Immigrant Traditions, literary creations, etc. — just like Gardner's! Most groups who call what they do "Wicca" are Neopagan Witches, though some may be considered Mesopagan ones
(1) The beliefs and practices of those modern persons who are attempting to rediscover, duplicate, and/or expand upon the practices of (postulated) Shamanic Witches.
(2) Neopagan Witchcraft done with feathers, drums, crystals, and other New Age additions of a vaguely shamanic flavor. Most use drums and chanting rather than drugs to achieve their desired trance states.
(1) Originally, the beliefs and practices of members of postulated independent belladonna/Moon Goddess cults throughout pre-medieval Europe, remnants of which might have survived into the Middle Ages.
(2) Currently, Neoshamanic Witchcraft as done by those who do not use the Neo- prefix.
The beliefs and practices of those modern persons following one or more varieties of Neopagan Witchcraft who refuse to admit it, usually while claiming to be Fam-Trad witches.
Note that several of these categories are capable of overlapping and/ or of being mixed by living individuals.
Was this article helpful?